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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 March, 2005, 20:09 GMT
Consultants' ultimatum over pay
Dr Brian Gibbons
Dr Brian Gibbons said he was confident the row can be resolved
NHS consultants have issued an ultimatum to the Welsh assembly government in a row over payments for overtime.

They have threatened possible industrial action unless a new contract, which was agreed more than a year ago, is fully brought in.

The consultants have given Welsh health minister Dr Brian Gibbons two weeks to end the dispute.

Dr Gibbons said he was confident the row could be resolved in that time.

Under the new contract, consultants agreed to work a minimum of 37.5 hours a week for the NHS, and be paid overtime for any hours worked beyond that.

Dr Richard Lewis, Welsh Secretary of the British Medical Association, said consultants in Wales were very angry it had not yet been introduced.

I understand their frustration but I think it is entirely reasonable that we make sure that this money does deliver what we want it to deliver
Dr Brian Gibbons

"This consultant contract was agreed on the 1 December 2003 - it should have been implemented by 1 December 2004. It still hasn't been implemented," he said.

He said that, in a meeting on 28 February, the consultants decided they had "little confidence in the assembly government's ability to implement this contract in its full form".

They will debate the issue at a further meeting in two weeks, and would not rule out industrial action.

"Any option is available to us and that will be decided in the meeting on 16 March," he said.

Dr Gibbons said the assembly government wanted to be sure that patients and taxpayers received value for money over the contract.

"From our point of view, we also are investing a very large sum of money into this consultant contract," he said.

We are in danger of witnessing strike action and consultants seeking employment elsewhere
Tory AM Jonathan Morgan

"I understand their frustration but I think it is entirely reasonable that we make sure that this money does deliver what we want it to deliver."

A statement from the assembly government added it was "working hard to move this process forward" and hoped that, by mid-March, it would have informed most consultants "of their agreed job plan and arrangements made to pay them for additional sessions worked".

Plaid Cymru spokesman Rhodri Glyn Thomas said the row showed the assembly government was "totally incompetent".

"The money has been paid in England, there is a real danger that we will lose consultants to England," he said.

Conservative health spokesman Jonathan Morgan said the decision of the consultants to threaten the assembly government "demonstrated the level of anger and frustration".

"We are in danger of witnessing strike action and consultants seeking employment elsewhere," he said.

Liberal Democrat spokeswoman Kirsty Williams said no-one wanted industrial action.

She said the assembly government was making the assembly "a laughing stock" and said it was "time they sorted out this mess".




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